ASA Adjudication on Hutchison 3G UK Ltd
Hutchison 3G UK Ltd t/a
20 Grenfell Road
4 September 2013
Internet (on own site)
Computers and telecommunications
Number of complaints:
A website, store.three.co.uk, promoted a tablet device. Text below the description of the product stated "Stock levels: We're out of stock online. To buy this item please call us on: 0800 358 8460 or visit a 3Store".
The complainant, who called the number and was offered a different product, challenged whether the claim misleadingly implied that, although the product was no longer available online, it was available by phone or in store.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Hutchison 3G UK Ltd trading as 3 said they did not consider the claims to be advertising or a sales promotion. They said different stock was allocated to their website, telesales, high street and third-party 3 stores and stated that it was standard practice in a retail business, when one channel was out of stock, that customers should be advised to try another channel. They stated that they did not engage in the practice of advertising low priced deals which were not available in order to get customers 'through the door'.
The ASA noted that the CAP code applied to ads and other marketing communications by or from companies, organisations or sole traders on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space online under their control, that were directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, services, opportunities and gifts. We noted that the product in question could be purchased directly from the web page and therefore considered it to be directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods and that the content therefore fell within the remit of the Code.
We considered that the claim "To buy this item please call us on: 0800 XXX XXXX or visit a 3Store" suggested that the advertised product was still available via those channels, but understood that when the complainant called the number he was informed that the product was not available and was offered a more expensive alternative. Although we acknowledged that some consumers might understand from the claim that they should try the other channels although there was no guarantee that the item was in stock via those alternatives, we also considered that other consumers would understand that the item was still available to buy by phone or in store. In light of that ambiguity, we concluded that the claim was likely to mislead.
The claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.29 and 3.30 (Availability).
The claim must not appear again in its current form. We told the advertisers to make clear that consumers should call or go in store to find out whether the product was available to purchase, but not to suggest that it was guaranteed.